The First Easter Sunday Illustrated in Early Modern Italian Painting

According to scripture, on the morning of the first Easter Sunday, a group of women (Mary Magdalene, Mary of Clopas and Mary Salome) had set off to Christ’s tomb, in order to anoint his body with oils and spices. When they arrived at their destination, the found an empty vault (below). The stone entrance had been opened by an angel, who informed them that Jesus had risen and that they must go and tell the diciples. 

The disciples don’t believe the women however, John and Peter took it upon themselves to go and visit Christ’s tomb in order to verify the situation. And they also found it empty (below). 

John and Peter returned home and in the meantime, Mary Magdalene made her way back to the tomb. There she encountered Jesus, but dis not initially recognise him. Jesus however, revealed himself to Mary Magdalene and when she tried to touch him, he proclaimed, “do not touch me” as he had “not yet ascended to the Father” (see below).

Mary returned to the disciples with her renewed message and later that day Peter and John can be found travelling on the road to Emmaus. Here, they too encounter the risen Christ although, like Mary, they do not recognise him (below). 

When they arrive in Emmaus, Peter and John invite Christ to dine with them. As Christ blesses the food, the two disciples recognise him as their Lord and with that, Jesus disappears (below).

Peter and John then return to Jerusalem and inform the other disciples what has occurred. Jesus then appears to them and allows them to touch him. 

Images

Jacopo Tintoretto, The Resurrection of Christ, 1565, oil on canvas, Chiesa di San Cassiano, Venice. Wikimedia Commons. 

Annibale Carracci, The Holy Women at Christ’s Tomb, 1587-1598, oil on canvas, The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.  

Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, Saint John and Saint Peter at the Empty Tomb of Christ, before 1641, oil on silvered copper, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Mario Balassi, Noli Me Tangere, c. 1632, oil on canvas, Ente Cassa di Risparmio, Florence. Web Gallery of Art. 

Altobello Melone, The Road to Emmaus, 1516-1517, oil on panel, The National Gallery, London. Copyright © 2016–2020 The National Gallery.

Caravaggio, Supper at Emmaus, 1601-1602, oil on canvas, The National Gallery, London. 

Sebastiano del Piombo, The Resurrected Christ, 16th century, oil on panel, San Niccolò, Treviso. Wikimedia Commons. 

References: The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Posted by Samantha Hughes-Johnson

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